As the head coach of the Blake girls’ lacrosse team, Laura Mark has seen her share of warriors on the sidelines.
They rally into battle with a bravery and grace that is both humbling and inspiring.
However, Mark isn’t referring to her athletes; she’s talking about their mothers -- and the fight against breast cancer.
Motivated to make a difference last season, Mark approached the coaches of rival Edina to establish the first lacrosse-oriented Play for P.I.N.K event in the country.
“Like so many, I have been personally inspired by the perseverance, determination, and positive spirit of those who have battled cancer," Mark said.
Reflecting on the 2011 inaugural event she said, “This game is just one way to show our support and to pay tribute to the survivors, their families and for all those whose fights continue.”
The statistics are indeed sobering. On average, every 2.5 minutes a woman is diagnosed with invasive breast cancer; one in eight will find themselves diagnosed this year.
Benefitting the Breast Cancer Research Foundation, the 2012 Play for P.I.N.K. event – held just two days before Mother’s Day – doubles the efforts of last year with not one, but two high-caliber Minnesota State High School League sanctioned contests at Blake School’s Gordy Aamoth Jr. Stadium.
The Blake boys’ take on Totino-Grace at 5:30 p.m. and the two-time defending state champion Blake girls play Edina at 7:30 p.m.
For Blake parent and event co-chair Maria Slusser, the success of Play for P.I.N.K. is a personal one.
A former Division I college lacrosse athlete, Slusser’s world was rocked when she was diagnosed with breast cancer in January of 2010. Following two surgeries, five months of chemotherapy and 33 rounds of radiation, today Maria is cancer-free and has made it her personal mission to do what she can in helping find a cure.
“Funding research is the key to eradicating breast cancer,” Slusser said. “It was exciting to be a part of the first-ever Play for P.I.N.K. lacrosse event, and thanks to some very hard-working Edina and Blake parents, we were able to raise $8K in 10 days of planning.”
Slusser has dedicated countless hours to building youth lacrosse in Minnesota (her oldest daughter, Anne, is a current sophomore on Blake’s Varsity) and galvanized the joint effort behind the 2012 event.
“This year will be even more amazing since the boys’ programs will be playing for P.I.N.K. too," Slusser said. "Unfortunately, most people know someone who has been impacted by breast cancer. By involving the entire lacrosse community, we'll get more families out to support the cause.
"While we hope to raise a lot of money for invaluable research, if even one Mom, sister or aunt is reminded to schedule their mammogram by attending the event on May 11th, we will have been successful!”
In addition to an evening of competitive lacrosse, the theme is “All Things P.I.N.K.!”
Merchandise sales include T-shirts, lacrosse ribbons, socks, headbands and more. New this year is a silent auction featuring lacrosse gear, camps, clinics and private coaching.
In addition, The Blake Athletic Department is donating 100 percent of the $5 admission charge to the Play for P.I.N.K. efforts.
A national grassroots fundraising organization, Play for P.I.N.K. supports creative events to benefit the Breast Cancer Research Foundation. All monies raised at Play for P.I.N.K. events go directly to BCRF. The Foundation is the only cancer organization to receive a Charitywatch A+ rating. Since 1996, Play for P.I.N.K. has contributed $25.75 million to BCRF.